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US Trade Gap Widens, Retail Inventories Rise

Retailers, it seems, are still struggling to lessen inventory levels.

In an advance economic indicators report for June out Thursday, the Commerce Department said the U.S. trade gap widened in the month, swelling 3.7% to $63.3 billion.

June’s gap was greater than the $61 billion trade deficit economists polled by Market Watch had projected.

Exports were up in the month to $120.2 billion, $1.1 billion more than May’s exports (excluding services), and imports were up $3.3 billion over May to $183.5 billion.

Wholesale inventories were fairly flat in June at $589.3 billion.

Retail inventories on the other hand, crept up despite companies’ best efforts to promote away the product they ended up left with due to weather (which has been blamed for a slew of brands’ bad news) or general consumer apathy.

For June, retail inventories were up 0.5% to $604.2 billion, compared to $601.2 billion in May.

But piled up product aside, retail trade sales were up 0.7% over May and up 2.4% year over year. Sales at non-store retailers (e-tailers) were up 14.2% over last year.

Clothing and accessories stores saw sales increase 0.4% to $19.59 billion, but it was e-commerce companies for the win. Online retailers had the biggest increase in sales for the month across all categories, jumping 10.6% over May to $44.25 billion.

Some analysts say the numbers look weaker than expected, though others add that the third straight month of increased consumer goods exports are indications of growth.